The Black Keys find there’s room for two at the top
With another hit record and a headlining spot at Coachella, the Black Keys’ hard work pays off
Now that the Black Keys have graduated to arena status, singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach jokes that he and drummer Patrick Carney have become divas, and are looking forward to putting the Coachella grounds on “lockdown’’ next month - like Eminem allegedly did at Bonnaroo a few years back.
“It was awesome,’’ Auerbach recalls with a laugh of the rapper’s reportedly extensive security measures. “I wasn’t allowed to go to my dressing room because Eminem was somewhere around.’’
It seems highly unlikely that the hard-working duo, who come to TD Garden on Wednesday, will be emulating Eminem or having their M&M’s sorted for them backstage anytime soon. The pair have made their climb the old-fashioned way, through constant touring and fine-tuning consistently engaging albums of psychedelic garage blues, including their latest, the critical and commercial success “El Camino.’’
Q. Obviously, it’s tremendously exciting to bump up to the arena level, but did you ever worry, “How are we going to fill that big space?’’
A. No. We’ve played bigger places. Every time we play a festival it’s four times the size of the Garden, you know? It’s no big deal. I mean our audience knows they’re not going to get Cirque du Soleil, they’re coming to see the Black Keys, so that’s what they’re going to get. (Laughs.)
Q. Yes, I’m guessing there are no trapeze artists.
A. Not many.
Q. You’re also headlining Coachella next month. It may be no big deal in terms of the number of people attending, but how does it feel to have worked your way up to that slot?
A. It feels great. We’ve been playing Coachella a long time. We started in the mailroom.
Q. And now you’re the CEOs! Does that mean you’re being nice to the people in the mailroom now, the opening acts?
A. Hell, no! (Laughs.)
Q. You guys have been touring with two extra musicians - bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboardist John Wood. Were those additions mainly because you could afford them now, or because you wanted to beef up your live sound?
A. It wasn’t about the size of the venue. It was just that we could afford to do it and our songs deserved it. We wanted to finally present the songs like we’d written them. Because when we’re in the studio we’re a duo, but we don’t confine ourselves. It’s not a duo as a shtick. Whatever a song needs, we put it on there. So having these extra guys is just sort of an extension of how we make our records. It feels amazing - like, “Oh wow, yeah, all those parts we wrote for the record, people get to hear them! Cool!’’ - instead of having to compromise a song and strip it down. That gets a little frustrating, to be honest.
Q. You recently produced a new album for Dr. John. From what I’ve heard, you essentially went to his house and badgered him into doing something different than what he’s done over the last few years.
A. Yeah, the last 30 years. (Laughs.)
A. I just kind of pushed him and surrounded him with some young guys, put a little fire under his ass, and he rose to the occasion. He really did. He’s an amazing musician, an amazing songwriter. I feel very lucky to have been able to make that record with him. It’s one of my favorite records I’ve ever made.
Q. Last year the Black Keys won three Grammy awards related to your last album “Brothers.’’ Given the kudos for “El Camino’’ you’re likely to be up for more next year. Is that kind of recognition meaningful to you?
A. Yeah, it feels great. It’s not why we make music, but it feels nice. I don’t know. I’ve never said, “Wow, this won a Grammy, maybe I should buy it.’’ I’ve never been turned on to music through the Grammys, but I guess a lot of people are so, great.
Q. But there’s also the sense that you haven’t compromised creatively because of the success - the expanding fan base, the awards. You didn’t just repeat a formula and put out a carbon copy of “Brothers.’’
A. Yeah, because we sort of did the opposite of “Brothers.’’ The songwriting was done completely the opposite way and it’s a very different feel to the record. Yeah, if we’d been smart we would’ve made a record just like “Brothers.’’ (Laughs.) We’ve always done whatever we wanted to do and stuck to our guns. We’ve been around 10 years now, seven records, we’re not going to change at this point. (Laughs.)